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The Firefighting Robot is designed to create 3D virtual reality maps of the interiors of b...

“Quick, send in the robots!” Far-fetched as it may sound, fire-fighting robots are indeed coming closer and closer to common use. While some of them are intended to actually put out the flames, others are designed more to scout out structures before human firefighters enter, letting those people know how to safely get around and where to concentrate their efforts. One of the latest machines in the second category is the self-balancing Firefighting Robot (FFR), being developed at the University of California, San Diego.  Read More

One of Prof. Mohseni's 'hurricane drones'

When we think of aircraft that study hurricanes, most of us probably either picture powerful manned airplanes that fly straight through them, or perhaps unmanned drones that fly safely over them. The University of Florida’s Prof. Kamran Mohseni has something else in mind, however. He’s developing tiny unmanned aircraft – and submarines – that will be swept up with the hurricane, gathering data on the strength and path of the storm as they go.  Read More

Makani Power's Wing 7 prototype Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) will now benefit from the back...

Having already put its Google Wallet where its mouth by backing a solar power tower plant in California to the tune of US$168 million, Google has now turned to wind power. According to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek, the search giant has acquired Makani Power, a California-based startup whose Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) technology first caught our interest in 2011.  Read More

X-47B leaving the flight deck after a touch-and-go landing (Image: US Navy by Mass Communi...

On Friday May 17, the US Navy's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator took another historic step as it conducted its first touch-and-go landings on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia. This maneuver is a critical achievement in the Navy’s program to develop an autonomous, unmanned, jet-powered combat aircraft capable for operating from a carrier.  Read More

X-47B  flies over the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) (Photo: US  Navy cour...

Naval aviation history was made today, as an autonomous unmanned aircraft took off from a US Navy nuclear aircraft carrier in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia. The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) took to the air from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and is part of a program to develop carrier-based unmanned combat aircraft capable of carrying out missions according to pre-programmed instructions rather than being under constant control by a ground-based pilot.  Read More

An iRobot PackBot navigates a school, in a demonstration of the Cognitive Patterns system

It’s sometimes easy to forget that for all their human-like qualities, robots are in fact machines. While some systems allow them to recognize basic objects, they still don’t necessarily make sense of what they’re looking at – they might see and recognize a box, for instance, but what does the presence of a box suggest to them? Now, researchers at Massachusetts-based engineering firm Aptima are developing a system known as Cognitive Patterns. It allows robots and humans to collaborate on building the robots’ understanding of the world, thus allowing them to operate on their own more effectively.  Read More

A coralbot prototype that the research team hopes to further develop

Since humans are responsible for much of the damage to coral reefs, it makes sense that we should try and help repair them. That’s exactly what a team from the Herriot-Watt University’s Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology is attempting to do with the development of underwater “coralbots,” which we covered last year. Now anyone can add their support to this worthy effort with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign that will help make the robots a reality.  Read More

COMAN stays on its feet despite being pushed around by its human masters

We've seen robots optimized for stability before, but where, for example, Dr. Guero's modified Kondo KHR-3HV could withstand the odd gentle prod with a finger, the Italian Institute of Technology's COMAN is apparently made of sterner stuff, remaining vertical in the face of rather more determined jostling thanks to its sensor-equipped motorized joints.  Read More

Liquid Robotics has announced the new version of its sea-going Wave Glider robot, the SV3

Last December, Liquid Robotics made headlines when one of its Wave Glider aquatic robots completed a “swim” from San Francisco to Australia. It marked the longest distance ever traveled by an autonomous vehicle of any type. The research/surveillance robot was part of a fleet of four that took part in the demo project. One of the others successfully reached Australia later, while the other pair are still on their way to their alternate destination of Japan. Today, the company announced its SV3 – the new-and-improved version of the existing Wave Glider robot.  Read More

DARPA is developing an autonomous robotic arm that requires only simple commands to perfor...

In the past, we've seen a variety of robotic arms that can do a variety of things, from chucking cinder blocks across a room to being controlled by thought. But behind the majority of these mechanical feats was a human guiding the robot's every move, step-by-step. That might be fine inside a laboratory, but what about somewhere a little less convenient, like a war zone, for instance? That's why DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has begun development on autonomous robotic arms that require only simple commands to performs complex tasks, like searching a bag or defusing explosive devices.  Read More

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